LOFT hosts meeting

About 75 people turned out to a virtual meeting about the supportive housing LOFT has planned for Church Street. The discussion was spirited.

LOFT has renovated five homes owned by the Humber River Hospital, and will be using them as transitional housing for 15 people recovering from mental illness. Residents will receive programming and will stay for about six months.

I think it is safe to say LOFT’s roll-out was poor: neighbours were given short notice to attend an outdoors information session (not consultation). Feedback was not solicited online, and they said at the time that “no further in-person meetings [were] planned”.

LOFT certainly heard about their poor community consultation last night. Several attendees said in direct terms that LOFT had done a bad job.

I think there were five other themes to the other comments:

  • The community should (or does) support this
  • The density of supportive housing is too high
  • More needed to be done about security
  • The zoning is unclear
  • That more needed to be done about ongoing community feedback

Personally, I was pleased to see that LOFT did host a second meeting. They appear to be willing to make some changes, and, indeed, announced some, including more staffing and a leisure space for residents.

I was, however, surprised that some of the suggestions hadn’t already been considered. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that LOFT should have:

  • Ongoing evaluation of the effects, if any, on the community and a willingness to change plans if the effects are deleterious
  • Regular community liaising with neighbours and the neighbourhood.
  • An outreach program explaining the work they do and the benefits they will bring

These efforts should be public and transparent.

In the to-and-fro of an online meeting, it’s hard to find out whether these efforts are in place, but I don’t think they are.

A complicated story

I’m going to ask you to do something a bit hard: to recognize that in an argument, both parties can be wrong.

This week, some community members started organizing against the supportive housing LOFT announced on Church Street. They put flyers on street posts and in mailboxes (including my own).

The flyers said that “crime, drugs, theft, property damage, low income, [and] prostitution” are problems in the community—and that “the former Humber River Regional hospital is turning 5 houses on Church St. into rooming/halfway houses for profit”.

As far as I can tell, little of that is accurate. They’re not going to be “rooming” (for profit) or “halfway houses” (for former criminals). They are “supportive housing for outgoing patients facing mental health challenges”, according to Debora Jesus, from LOFT.

Nor are they likely for profit. They are owned by the hospital, and LOFT is a charity, not a business. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems impossible. (And I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Weston has a large problem with petty crime. I don’t think so.)

But LOFT and the HRH don’t come out of this blameless.

I don’t think they did enough consultation, or sought opinions from far enough around the community.

I’m far from a good barometer, but I do try to keep attuned to what’s going on in Weston. I didn’t hear about LOFT’s “information session” (notably, not a consultation) until after it had passed.

I wasn’t the only one. Several members of the Weston Village Neighbours group didn’t know about it, and MPP Faisal Hassan wrote a letter to the CEO of LOFT saying he would have hoped to have been included. He wasn’t.

He also wrote “I … urge you to have broad community consultations and to involve local residents and elected officials such as myself.”

LOFT, for their part, says that they met with the WVRA and Frances Nunziata, and circulated flyers in a 3-block radius.

They also say, however, that “there are no further in-person meetings planned”.

This sort of stuff isn’t rocket science. I’m in favour of supportive housing, but LOFT should have known—or been told—that Weston gets quite enough “information” and not enough consultation from developers, Metrolinx, and, yes, the Humber River Regional Hospital. (Which announced years ago that they would be selling the property until, whoops, community members told them that they legally couldn’t.)

LOFT announced supportive housing on Church Street

LOFT Community Services announced that it will be using five homes on Church Street near the hospital for “supportive housing for outgoing patients facing mental health challenges starting October 2021”.

While the comments on the Weston Village Neighbours Facebook page were generally supportive, some noted that there had been little notification or consultation. I haven’t received a response from LOFT to my email asking for more details.

Church St update

Dan Harris sent along the response he received from city staff regarding the traffic islands on Church St. It’s good-ish news.

Staff say that there won’t be traffic islands, which—in my opinion—is a blessing. The streets are too narrow.

City staff also said that they had hoped to alternate the placement of islands on the south and north sides of the street but “Unfortunately this was not possible as the TTC required two buses to be able to pass each other at the same time”.

They also left open the possibility that the the islands could be better placed in the future when the road is repaved: “with any future road rehabilitation, the islands can be incorporated, like on Riverside Drive.”